The rapper now known as Central Cee, was born and raised in Shepherds Bush to a Gunanyan father and an Irish mother. Cee was given the birth name Oakley Neil Caesar on the 4th of June 1998. Growing up Cee recalls his Father playing him a mixture of music genres such as Hiphop, Reggae and dancehall. Cee was able to complete school, but it wasn’t easy due to life circumstances as well as Cee admitting to acting out a lot and having behavioural issues due to his temper. Central Cee has been putting out music since he was 14, but it wasn’t until the Covid-19, pandemic, the hardest time in music, that Cee found his voice.
How Central Cee became the UKs biggest rapper at 23
So how did a 22 year old rapper go from an unknown to the biggest rapper in the UK? When looking into the rise of Cee, it is clear that he is not only a rapper but understands that much like anything in the world the music industry works formulaic. Cee studied the industry, picked up a trending music style, being “Drill”, one of the most trending genres in UK music in terms of consumer behaviour during the pandemic. What Cee did that was genius, was that he capitalised on a trending musical style however instead of exclusively rapping about criminal activities and violence Cee strategically discusses more relatable topics to normal society in comparison to other drill rappers, in order to reach a wider audience. This allowed Cee to tap into a wider audience while still maintaining the drill sound that is trending. By making the trending sound relatable to everyone Cee left the door open for fans to come based on their own terms.
Mixtape Marketing Plan
Besides capitalising on a trending musical style, Cee’s marketing as an independent artist for his first mixtape “Wild West ” was massively succesful and once again displayed Cee’s knowledge of the music industry as well as formulas that work. In order to make the mixtape stand out, the cover art was shot against an orange backdrop, the whole album roll out would follow this orange branding being associated with both the mixtape and Cee. The smartest part of the mixtape drop was having the album be a partnership with already established UK brand “Trapstar” who also originate from Shepherds Bush, Trapstar has been around since 2008 and have built a crazy consumer base particularly within the rap community. The trapstar partnership meant that mixtape sales were also attached to the sale of merchandise of the “Trapstar x Wild West”, Cee would receive 2 Unit sales of the mixtape per article of clothing purchased as each article of merchandise came with both a physical and digital copy of the mixtape. This meant that Cee was not only able to boost his career in terms of statistics but also that fans of the brand trapstar would purchase merchandise as a fan of trapstar but as they have a free mixtape including they’re likely to give the music a chance especially with a brand like “Trapstar” backing the music. Central Cee’s brand awareness as well as concurrent album sales increasing as a result of the drop, lead him to the UK top 100 Chart for the first time with his mixtape debuting at number 2 independently with no features. To quote Cee on a future song “The day wild west dropped I painted my city orange”
Central Cee’s Jordan Year
Cee’s marketing mind has always been his greatest strength, Cee knew straight after “Wild West” he would have to follow up with something much bigger and much better both musically and marketing campaign wise. Cee has always introduced elements of american style of rappers into his own brand, one of these elements being basketball and specifically the number 23, Cee was turning 23 and decided to name the following mixtape 23 after Michael Jordan’s signature basketball jersey as well as creating as having a huge 23 chain custom made for himself which was worn throughout all of the mixtapes promo and roll out. The roll out was a lot easier for Cee the second time around as he had gained a lot of access to both resources as well as money. The colour that was chosen was Yellow, an even brighter colour then orange but it wasn’t actually the colour that was the most eye-catching part of the cover art, it was a mixture of the chain, the colour, and a shirtless Central Cee displaying his tattoos from neck to waist. Also the centre of the album art displays Cee’s large torso tattoo of trapstar in their signature font, this shock value as well as tactical use of simple branding techniques all helped Cee sneak his way to the top of the music industry. 23 included several tracks that were made for the purpose of both going tik tok viral to market them as well as made for a female audience, with songs such as “obsessed with you” which has a music video shot by Cee himself in a vlog style road trip date with a women being able to accumulate nearly 40 million views in 5 months on youtube. Cee seems to be dropping a music video for every song continuing to sport the colour yellow and associate it with every video in some way on 23 with every video averaging around 10 million views every 2 months.
Although it may seem that Cee somewhat appeared overnight as a rapper, this was simply not the case and in fact the road was very long for Cee and took a good knowledge of building a brand and a nearly 10 year wait for Cee to finally see his work turn successful to quote Central Cee’s advice to his younger brothers on the song Lil bro “Shortcuts where? Take the stairs, no handouts, no taking lifts”. The mixtape 23 has received mainstream support from artists such as Drake as well as ED Sheeran, with Cee being featured on Sheeran’s latest project.